Rory Sutherland's brilliant brain pt 1 - bees waggle dance

Rory Sutherland's brilliant brain pt 1 - bees waggle dance

It is a truth widely acknowledged that Rory Sutherland is a hugely entertaining raconteur, incredibly knowledgeable on pretty much any subject you could care to discuss and one of the advertising world’s greatest minds.

Listening to Rory speak, you never know where he’s going to go next or on which tangent he will fly off.

It’s always a fantastic ride… just check out a selection of Rory Sutherland quotes here.

But he has sooooo many amazing ideas, at such an incredible frequency, that we thought it would be useful to slow things down a touch to give us mere mortals the time to examine some of his ‘greatest hits’.

So here’s part 1 of a series of blogs delving into the wonderful mind of Rory Sutherland to marvel in the way that, at the drop of a hat, he can weave ideas together to illustrate a salient point.

And there’s no better place to start than…

Bees and their Waggle Dance


It’s something that most companies try their best to avoid.

But Rory argues that risk, along with creativity, is beneficial to business.

Most companies operate where every decision is based on optimisation of the known knowns, rather than indulging in experimentation.

When your business only operates with known knowns, (your competitors quite often know these knowns also) you will miss out on good opportunity.

The data points that determine long term survival and getting lucky are the things that you don’t yet know.

Bees, have evolved a system where a certain large percentage of the worker bees obey the waggle dance (directing them to a current source of pollen) and a smaller percentage of worker bees ignore the waggle dance.

Those ‘rogue’ bees experiment/investigate/go off piste to discover a ‘known unknown’ source of as yet undiscovered rich source of pollen.

The bees know that there is a trade off between exploit and explore.

And in a changing environment, you need more explore than exploit, because the past is less a reliable indicator of future success.

If some cows break into a field (markets unexpectedly change - as they do) and eat all the flowers that were the only pollen source (your only supplier), you’re a bit stuffed without a backup alternative.

If you didn’t have any random bees, the hive would never get lucky.

You will never get exposed to incredible discovery of even richer opportunities (better quality suppliers or new product development).

To listen to Rory do his thing about the bees, listen to this podcast (start it at 26:20 mins)


When business learns from the awesome lessons evolved in nature over millions of years, this is called biomimicry.

Later this year, we are launching a new course on this fascinating topic and you can pre-register for Biomimicry now.

And while you are waiting, below you can see a bit more Rory, waxing lyrical with the founder of 42courses, Chris Rawlinson.

Rory Sutherland Q&A with Chris Rawlinson

Rory Sutherland Behavioural Economics online course

To learn directly from Rory Sutherland about behavioural science and behavioural economics, have a look at our 2 courses…

Behavioural Economics

In this course you’ll learn how to:

  • Make better decisions

  • Master the key Behavioural Principles

  • Recognise your own biases

  • Nudge peoples behaviour

  • Win friends and influence people

Applied Behavioural Science

The key skills taught in this course:

  • Find counterintuitive solutions to existing problems

  • Understand how to build a behavioural science team

  • Discover how to design better behavioural interventions

  • Learn how to apply behavioural science techniques

You can learn anything that your heroes learnt

You can learn anything that your heroes learnt

How to reply to an online customer complaint

How to reply to an online customer complaint